Traveling Abroad

Why it’s an opportunity everyone should take


Photo by Emily Oehler

Emily Oehler and new friend, Elena Bertolotti, visiting the famous Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

A wise, anonymous person once said, “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

I have begun to understand that sentiment after traveling abroad and getting a better sense of what I want out of life.

I have always been the girl who wants to travel, and especially study abroad during her college years. Unfortunately, not that many of my peers share the same passion. For whatever the reasons may be, and there are many, college students seem to get so wrapped up in everything else that they forget some of the really special, important things that we should consider doing. Our time at school is very limited. While that list of “to-do’s” can be long, the one I’m referring to currently is traveling while in school.

It seemed as if everyone knew what they wanted to do or where they wanted to go right out of high school. I was not that girl. I knew what I wanted for breakfast the next morning, but which college I was supposed to attend for the next four years of my life? Um, no, hard pass.

I graduated thinking I wanted to go into the social work field, but over the summer, I realized how little I actually knew about the field. The more I researched, the more I decided that it wasn’t for me.

I then decided to try out the local tech school, which for some reason I completely dreaded. My parents told me to enroll in more than just general education courses, which then led me to join the Business Management major. I quit after one week.

I felt doomed, like I would never find my calling.

I had always loved traveling, anywhere, anytime that I could. I ended up taking a spontaneous trip to Orange County, California for three days just because I wanted to. I thought that maybe if I could find something somewhat related to traveling that I could do for a career, that I would excel at it and it would be deemed “my thing.”

At first I looked into flight attendant school, but realized that I would have to wear heels and I’m more of a Converse type-of-girl.

I finally was accepted to one of the thirteen, two-year UW-systems in Appleton, before transferring here to Eau Claire this semester. This was a bit of a drive for me from where my family resides in LaCrosse. I am in the communications program right now, and I feel like I can do just about anything with it, including traveling.

Before I started my school years though in Appleton, I still felt a nagging about traveling. To myself, I wasn’t doing enough to live out my passions for traveling, even though I was now apart of a legitimate program. and I had to do it now.

Before I started my school years though in Appleton, I still felt a nagging about traveling. To myself, I wasn’t doing enough to live out my passions for traveling, even though I was now apart of a legit program. 

I’ve been traveling with my family to various parts of the country for as long as I can remember, and even before that, but this was a different feeling.

I had to go abroad, and I had to do it now. 

When I started researching to possibly become an Au Pair, I found really good information on the website I used to sign up. Since I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to do with my life, and to this day I still don’t, looking back on this site while writing this story made me happy. 

According to Au Pair World, “These experiences will make you grow and let you learn lots and lots about yourself. If you’re not yet sure what kind of career you’d like to have, being an au pair may give you some new ideas. Or even help you to decide what it is you don’t want to do”.

I don’t know what I want to do completely, but after having this opportunity I did actually learn a lot about myself, and I did get some new ideas into what I really want to do. All I had to do was take the first leap!

I have always heard, “make sure you travel while you’re young because after you graduate college you won’t be able to ever do it again….” I would like to believe that this wasn’t correct, but I couldn’t shake the feeling.

According to The New York Times, only ten percent of students study abroad, which is a depressing fact. Studying abroad, or traveling in general while in college, help us all grow as individuals and give us the global competence we need as we continue into our adult lives after graduation.

 I know I can study abroad, but I wanted to do something completely different. I had a friend from high school who was an Au Pair in Sweden. With her help, I set up a profile page on the same website she used.

An Au Pair is sort of a live-in nanny. I was so anxious and excited as I started connecting with families. I finally settled on a family of four in Cavenago di Brianza, Italy. 

My job was to help take care of two kids while my host parents were working late nights at the hospital. I did chores and frequently walked to the park to get delicious gelato with the little tykes. I only had to pay for my airplane tickets and multiple souvenirs. I was there for a little over one month.

I had the opportunity to meet a friend of the family who was my same age. Together we visited Rome, Milan and Venice — to name a few. I was also able to visit my high school friend in Switzerland.

The New York Times also found that when students study abroad they get the opportunity to meet and interact with other people from different cultures. “Learning how to interact with people from other countries and cultures equips future leaders in all sectors to address urgent issues shared across borders”.

It was an experience I will honestly never forget. I am so grateful to the family for wanting me as their Au Pair. It was something I think I will never be able to experience again, or at least in the same way. 

College students have opportunities to study abroad, at a much cheaper rate than if you were to travel by yourself, but don’t seem to take the chances. If you still want to travel, and have experience working with kids, then take the time to try out being an Au Pair. I can 100% guarantee you that you will not regret it! 

I always hear my peers talking about traveling and that they want to do it, “if it wasn’t so expensive”, or “if I had the time,” but it’s all about making time. Now is the time to create memories and take chances to avoid looking back on your college experiences and being filled with regret.